New US drama The Mentalist: what a disappointment

It might be a hit in the States, but our TV editor isn't impressed...

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Alison Graham's TV Watch
Alison Graham
Alison Graham

 

If there are any House fans out there who are eagerly awaiting the arrival of series five - you're out of luck, I'm afraid. In the normal course of events, House would have returned roughly about now, but it's been bumped back until at least the autumn.


This isn't good news for House fans, though from being a devotee in the very early days, love between House and me died some time ago when I became increasingly exasperated by its tiresome repetition because the same thing happened every single week.

Anyway, this gap in the schedules has left a neat and convenient berth for Five's latest US import, The Mentalist.

The show did well when it debuted in the States - in fact, in a pretty dismal year when American dramas were dusting themselves off after the enforced hiatus caused by the writers' strike, it was about the only really big hit amid a sea of cancellations. Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money and the US version of Life on Mars have all been axed.

So I was looking forward to seeing it, despite the daft title, which always makes me think of Alan Partridge, who used "you're a mentalist" as a term of abuse to hurl at an obsessed fan who'd held him hostage.

But deary me, what a disappointment. The Mentalist is your standard troubled-maverick-with-a-damaged-soul crime drama fare, with a lead character who can see things that others don't and who has no truck with authority, to the exasperation of his immediate boss. And, of course, everyone gives him grudging respect because he Always Gets Results.

Simon Baker (he was the smooth bloke who tried to get off with Anne Hathaway's character in The Devil Wears Prada) as Mentalist Patrick Jane is bland and unremarkable, though in fairness he doesn't have much to work with, as the script for the first episode could have been regurgitated by a computer fed the relevant plot points.

I'm not quite sure what Jane's special powers are supposed to be. There's a suggestion he's paranormal in some way, but he claims merely that he watches people closely to pick up on their tics. Just like Sherlock Holmes did, though to compare The Mentalist with Sherlock Holmes is just too much of a stretch.

He's not even as convincing as Robson Green's Dr Tony Hill in Wire in the Blood, or Vincent D'Onofrio in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. At least we were given some idea of their thought processes. Jane just seems to pluck solutions out of the air. I suspect if you see one episode of The Mentalist, then you've seen 'em all.

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